Take the Test? Me?

When we talk about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we usually like to focus on the freedom of speech part.  Some of us (including us former reporters) like the freedom of the press thing.  The recent Occupy movement has given us new-found interest in the right of peaceable assembly.  And come election time, we often hear about freedom of religion.

But what about that fifth First Amendment right?  How often do we give attention to our right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances?”
This week, clause five takes on special significance for dear ol’ Eduflack.  Courtesy of the good folks over at Change.org, I am now the target of an online petition.  
For those unfamiliar, Change.org is a terrific site where folks can post their grievances on any topic you care about.  Oppose the war in Afghanistan?  Wanna stop the Keystone pipeline?  Demand the return of tan M&Ms?  Doesn’t matter, Change.org is your site.  Post up a petition, spread the word, and work toward that goal of 100,000 signatures.  When you hit the magic number, great things will come to the petitioners.
This week, a petition was posted opposing the use of standardized tests in K-12 education.  Using standard language of attacking those dreaded “bubble exams,” the petitions note:
Students are put under pressure like never before to meet high expectations on Standardized Tests. Not only that, but teachers are held accountable for these tests scores, putting just as much pressure on teachers all over the United States. Ultimately, destroying the true purpose of school and education. Basically, it doesn’t matter how much a teacher helped a student go from a struggling reader to a student now never seen without a book in his hand. It doesn’t matter that the teacher inspired and motivated the student to want to graduate high school instead of dropping out on her 16th birthday just 2 months away.
The petition’s call to action?  Before subjecting our kids to more of those dreaded bubble sheets, the politicians responsible for such horrific measures of accountability should first take those standardized tests themselves.  “If you are in a position of power in the education system and think the tests are good and valuable, the theory goes, then you should feel comfortable taking them yourself and sharing how you performed,” the petitioners write.
The petition is addressed to nine parties.  The U.S. Senate, which is working to enact ESEA reauthorization, is target one.  It is followed by folks like CA Gov. Jerry Brown, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, PA Gov. Tom Corbett, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, CT Gov. Dannel Malloy, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  But wait, there are two other targets on the list.  The first is former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, now the head of StudentsFirst.  The second?  Patrick Riccards, your friendly neighborhood Eduflack.
For the record, I do think student tests are good and valuable.  I believe that the ultimate measure of our public education systems should be outcomes.  If we are serious about improving student learning, we need to enact some measures to ensure that is happening.  Standardized tests may be far from perfect, and they may not be the only measure of student learning, but they are an important component to determining our success.  Like it or not, we need quantifiable measures of student progress and school achievement.
Sure, technically I’m not “the Government.”  But folks should feel free to bring me their redress of testing grievances.  Will I take the test?  I’d be happy to.  But as the head of an education advocacy organization, I’d like to have some of those voices defending the status quo and chanting “all is well” when we talk about improvement in the testing room right there with their own No. 2 pencils.  
Sadly, we are only up to 27 signatures on the petition.  When we hit the magic number, I’m ready for my bubble sheet.

2 thoughts on “Take the Test? Me?

  1. In terms of telling us how our nation and states are doing, absolutely.  But none of those tests provide us a snapshot of how a particular school or our particular child is doing.  As a parent, I want to know how my school and my kid are performing.

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